FIS monitors catch logbooks, fish purchase information, fishing vessel licence information and catch certificates

The new online Fisheries Information System (FIS) recently introduced to Maldivian one-by-one tuna fisheries is truly innovative and pushes the envelope in terms of what can be achieved in modern fisheries management, according to the global seafood sustainability non-profit organisation Future of Fish.

Launched in August this year, the FIS monitors catch logbooks, fish purchase information, fishing vessel licence information and catch certificates, allowing the Maldives’ one-by-one tuna fisheries to fulfil all the latest international traceability requirements with regards to catch and vessel reporting.

Keith Flett, Strategy Director with Future of Fish, recently visited the Maldives to evaluate the system with support from the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture (MoFA) and the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) and was impressed by what he saw.

“The FIS is using both catch documentation and catch information to verify their exports. It is one of the bigger steps forward that a government has taken to verify that the catch has actually been reported to the government at the point of export. All while trying to meet EU and IUU task force laws,” says Flett.

Through its work in traceability technology, Future of Fish has identified the five core functions that must be present in order to ensure full-chain transparency in the seafood supply chain. The new FIS in the Maldives manages to check off three of the most challenging functions: supply chain visibility, vessel-dock capture, and data verification, a feat that Flett calls “very impressive”. He adds, “This system provides significantly greater security to the seafood supply chain.”

Work on the FIS began in July 2012 after the implementation of the EU Regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) entered into force on 1 January 2010, which together with the successful Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of the skipjack tuna pole-and-line fishery in 2012, placed new demands on fisheries data capture in the Maldives. Following four years’ development work, the Catch Statistics, Licensing, Catch Certification, Fish Purchase and Transfer modules are fully incorporated into the new FIS. As well as providing necessary assurances related to MSC certification, its data is also sufficient for the reporting requirements of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), which is responsible for managing tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas.

Future of Fish’s complimentary evaluation of the FIS has been welcomed by Dr Mohamed Shainee, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture for the Maldives.

“On behalf of MoFA, I thank Keith Flett and Future of Fish for coming to see the FIS in action and for sharing their appraisal with us. Everyone involved with the system is delighted to receive such valued independent feedback that recognises we have an excellent tool in place to progress Maldives’ one-by-one fisheries. Further to that, through our key role at the IOTC, we are actively encouraging fishery improvements beyond our own borders. I see no reason why a FIS cannot be rolled out to a much broader geography to safeguard the long-term futures of many more coastal communities in the Indian Ocean and beyond,” says Dr Shainee.

The FIS was developed through generous support from IPNLF and its Members: Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury and World Wise Foods. It is now being expanded through a second phase of development, with features to include automated catch reporting from fishing vessels.

John Burton, Chairman of IPNLF, comments, “The Maldives has been one of IPNLF’s biggest priorities from the outset. This commitment began with our support work geared towards achieving MSC certification for the country’s pole-and-line skipjack fishery, and the relationship has become even more deep-rooted in the years that have followed that milestone. Today, we are working closer than ever with local fishing groups, NGOs, government, scientists and the commercial industry to ensure its traditional one-by-one fisheries continue to be managed as responsibly as possible, while providing sustainable employment for Maldivian fishermen. An important achievement in this work was the creation of a robust FIS, which we and our Members long considered central to safeguarding the futures of these communities as well as to capitalise on the huge international demand for sustainable one-by-one caught tuna.”